Hepatitis C infections on the rise in Mahoning County

Brandon Parsons
May 13, 2017

The heroin epidemic is driving up hepatitis C infections, with the biggest increase in people ages 20 to 29, U.S. health officials said Thursday.

In the years between 2010 and 2015, scientists and medical health professionals noted the skyrocketing cases of hepatitis C virus infections.

Newborns cannot be tested for hepatitis C, they must be followed for eighteen months until doctors can determine if they've been infected. The health agency estimates new infections for 2015 at 34,000.

If left untreated, the disease may scar the liver (cirrhosis), and eventually cause liver cancer and then liver failure.

Of course, this study reflects the broader issue of the rising Hepatitis C rates.

Infections are growing fastest among Americans in their 20s, because of injection drug use, according to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Even with the new surveillance efforts, hepatitis C detection can be hard, particularly among younger patients who may be using drugs and are less likely get regular medical care. In 2014, the highest infection rate - 22.6 per 1,000 live births - was in West Virginia, while Tennessee had 10.1 per 1,000.

They found the odds of an infection were about three times higher among women residing in rural counties than among women in large urban counties, 4.5-times higher among women who smoked cigarettes during pregnancy, and almost 17-times higher among women with concurrent hepatitis B virus infection.

"Needle exchange is our first line of defense against the spread of hepatitis C and HIV among people who inject", Raymond said.

Hepatitis C can be successfully treated, treatments are available.

Someone with hepatitis C can have the virus for years with no symptoms.

While the disease is more common in the baby boomer population, Patrick said the new infections have increased among women in their reproductive years revealing one new effect of the opioid epidemic.

Women are increasingly giving birth to children infected with the liver disease hepatitis C, an 89% increase from 2009 to 2014, pediatrics experts reported on Thursday.

In Wisconsin, cases of acute Hepatitis C have skyrocketed, going up 450 percent from 2011 to 2015. He also called for more assistance to get these women into treatment and to better understand opioid addiction to treat these patients. With the heroin epidemic, more people have turned to injecting drugs. "We suspect this is highly linked to the opioid epidemic".

And the CDC advocates using needle exchange programs to prevent infection. The increase young people is also putting their babies at risk.

The researchers say limited access to HCV prevention and treatment services that stop transmission has also contributed to the surge in cases. The HHS kept this in mind for their National Viral Hepatitis Action Plan, 2017-2020, which aims to eliminate all new hepatitis infections, a plan which has been dubbed "feasible if the right steps are taken", in a recent report.

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